The merits of memorization

It appears that memorization has turned redundant. Why remember obscure facts when you can look up anything on your smartphone? Why not redirect the time and effort we spend with memorization to other forms of learning?

Well, I can think of several instances where I still rely on memory.

When I wish to persuade my German colleagues in a meeting, I often have to make do with my limited German vocabulary. Even as I explain my idea, it seems like a mere shadow of what I have in mind – and I cannot look up the right German words in a meeting.

When I am stuck on a programming problem, I often search for a solution online. If I 3 different solutions in memory, I could have picked out the most elegant one. Having to look something up often binds us to using the first solution we encounter.

When I don’t know a recipe, I have to have it open on the side while cooking, and part of my attention is diverted to following it. When I have a few recipes in memory, I can draw connections between them and innovate. Having several ideas in memory helps me discover ways in which they are interconnected.

Thanks to the internet, we can get rid of memorization for its own sake. Yet, in our enthusiasm, let us stop short of throwing it away entirely.

Inspiration: In Praise of Memorization

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